Council members Kwame Brown (D-At large) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) teamed up today to announce they will hold a joint hearing later this month to consider public financing of the proposed convention center hotel.
In their statement, Brown and Evans both indicated they were likely to get behind the proposal to authorize up to $750 million in bonds to help pay for the project.
Evans, who is pro-development, was widely expected to be supportive the calls for more public financing. But Brown's forceful comments come as surprise, which could provide a crucial boost to efforts to get the legislation through the Council.
"It's time to build a hotel," said Brown, chairman of the Economic Development Committee. "This is a shovel ready project. Projects like the Convention Center Hotel, Penn Branch and others have to be a priority because we can move them forward now and put residents and local businesses to work."
Evans, chair of the Finance and Revenue Committee, said the hotel project is important to the "city's continued competitiveness."
"It is imperative we get this project in the ground and built by January 2013 to accommodate bookings we have already made for the hotel," Evans said.
Evans and Brown noted that Dallas is financing its $500 million convention hotel.
A development team was initially expected to come up with private financing for the proposed 1,100-room Marriott hotel near the sprawling convention center. The city was to chip in $187 million in taxpayer funds through tax increment financing, but now the convention authority is looking for significantly more public money because of frozen assets and the recession.
Natwar M. Gandhi, the city's chief financial officer, said the city would breach its cap on borrowing if the Council authorized to finance all $750 million of the project. But Gandhi and other officials say they are hopeful a deal can be worked out.
"It's clear that circumstances have changed and in this new environment we can't afford to let key projects languish," Brown said. "Our goal is to move projects to completion that have the best opportunity for success."
Brown and Evans plan to hold their hearing on June 24.